January 26th, 2021
MOVIE: THE NIGHT
STARRING: SHAHAB HOSSEINI, NIOUSHA NOOR, ARMIN AMIRI, STEPH MARTINEZ
DIRECTED BY: KOUROSH AHARI
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
It’s not easy as a film critic when the movies are not good. It’s even worse when the movies you watch have the potential to be better than they are. Ask any film critic, we don’t want the movies we watch to be bad. Take The Night, it’s a middle east horror film, a part of the world that has introduced impressive movies of the genre recently, and it never knows how to get out of it’s own way. It has a bit of David Lynch’s Lost Highway, a dash of The Shining, and similar themes to Under the Shadow, and never uses any of those themes for it’s benefit. Instead, The Night becomes trapped in it’s own settings and thinks the destruction of a relationship will work as a subtle allegory to use for horror. Painfully it all comes off as cliched and The Night forgets how to scare the audience entirely with each passing moment.
The narrative starts at a friends house, Babek (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Noor) are excited to see friends again and introduce them to their newborn baby. For Babek the pressure is great and he wants to blow off some steam, smoking weed with buddy Farhad (Armin Amiri), and airing grievances about their wives. Neda is just trying to keep her family happy, where clearly there has been added stress with a newborn now. The night out ends, and the couple heads home, but along the way the couple gets lost, and soon Babek thinks he’s hit something with his car. Was it an animal? A flat tire? Whatever it was has disappeared, so the couple looks for a local hotel to find shelter for the night. The hotel they do find is immediately strange. They’re harassed by a homeless man at the door, they check in, and then the elevator starts acting weird. The signs are there, but they just want to get some sleep, and put an end to a weird day.
Of course, the horrors are just beginning, but after the couple settles into the creepy motel, director Kourosh Ahari seems unable to keep the tension strong. Many of the scare tactics are wasted, with bumps and thuds happening on the floor above them, mysterious characters arriving at the door, and more of the same. It’s easy to tell that everything we are seeing is not real and when each scare starts to repeat itself, you start to blame the couple for sticking around this long. The screenplay, written by Ahari and Milad Jarmooz, attempts to interject the past history of Babek and Neda’s martial discourse into the reasons these characters see creepy visions, but even then it’s not enough to explain the mysterious lodging that arrived out of nowhere.
What The Night also fails to do is capture the essence of a haunted establishment. It’s obvious that each room is just a studio and even if that wasn’t true, the lighting and effects are too low budget to provoke any sense of dread. I was reminded of my appreciation for the film Silent Hill, which created this ghost town, filled with demons, and dead spirits haunting Radha Mitchell. Outside a few jump scares and a crying baby, The Night fails to capture any of that good stuff that Silent HIll had. Haunted hotels can be terrifying when done right. Done wrong and it’s just a slow spinning wheel.
The comments on The Night are not all bad. I was encouraged by the final act, which uses more haunted imagery, drawing the two characters into compromising scenarios, plus the direction by Kourosh Ahari seems strong enough to be worthy of more features, hopefully with deeper screenplays. But overall, there are other horror movies that have done this better. The Shining is the staple and even Doctor Sleep proved it can still be achieved today. The Night is just better suited for being left in the dark.
THE NIGHT IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND AVAILABLE ON DEMAND JANUARY 29TH
1 1/2 STARS
Written by: Leo Brady